Call to help Kenyan lawyers

Local law societies in England and Wales are being encouraged to form links with lawyers in Kenya as part of a new initiative to prevent human rights abuses of lawyers by the Kenyan authorities.

The call to forge links is contained in a report on human rights abuses in Kenya drawn up by the Law Society's human rights working party. The group was invited to the country by the Law Society of Kenya to investigate claims that lawyers there are being subjected to harassment, unlawful detention and torture.

The report concludes that there is compelling evidence “of harassment of lawyers who take on politically sensitive cases”.

The working party's report calls on the British government and the Law Society to press the Kenyan government to review all outstanding criminal cases against opposition figures, including lawyers.

It also argues that twinning between the local law societies of the two countries would help keep the international spotlight on Kenya and help protect its lawyers.

The report calls for links with the Rift Valley Law Society in Nakuru to be established as soon as possible.

Andy Unger, who was a member of the delegation and co-wrote the report, said: “As President Moi's backyard, Nakuru is a political hotspot, with lawyers who have reported death threats in the frontline.”

He added that the establishment of links at a local level would afford protection to younger Kenyan lawyers who may not have a high international profile.

“It is also an opportunity for lawyers who want to offer practical help to bridge the gap between letter-writing and being part of one of these official visits which has to receive official funding and produce a report,” he said.